Oil giant Equinor gains massive profits amidst climate crisis

While the world feels the impact of the climate crisis and millions of people struggle to heat their homes in the UK, oil companies post record profits.

Equinor, the Norwegian government’s majority-owned oil corporation, which provides more than a quarter of the UK’s gas, has announced that its adjusted earnings for 2022 amounted to USD 74.9 billion for 2022, up from USD 33.5 billion last year. Equinor is also trying to drill a massive undeveloped oil field in the North Sea, the Rosebank oil field.

What is the Rosebank oil field?

The Rosebank field is located in the Faroe-Shetland Channel, northwest of Shetland, and it’s predicted it would produce 69,000 barrels of oil per day at its peak. According to calculations shared by the #StopCambo campaign, burning the oil and gas from this field would generate more CO2 than the 28 lowest-income countries combined. These countries don’t have the historical responsibility of climate change like Global North countries, including the UK, and yet find themselves facing the brunt of it.

This oil field would be pouring more fuel on the fire of the climate crisis. The world’s fossil fuel production needs to decline rapidly to keep global warming at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and avoid the worst consequences of climate change.

Drilling the Rosebank oil field would also impact marine life, with pipelines cutting through a protected area © Lia Tzanidaki/Unsplash

UK taxpayer money fueling climate change and the oil industry  

The United Kingdom has a history of misalignment between its policies on fossil fuel extraction and global climate goals, as the UK has been a nation where oil and gas extraction is convenient for fossil fuel companies.

In the tax years 2015-16 and 2016-17, the UK Treasury gave more money to such companies than it received from them in taxes. Before the temporary Energy Profits Levy, the oil and gas sector paid a 40 percent headline rate tax on profits in the UK. Within the levy, a relief was introduced to encourage oil and gas companies to invest in UK extraction: through the 80 percent Investment Allowance, these companies will get a 91p tax saving for every £1 invested, nearly doubling the tax relief available.

Backlash from climate activists

“The fact that Equinor and other fossil fuel companies made such obscene profits is a real slap in the face for the millions of people who are struggling to pay their energy bills and keep their homes warm this winter,” said Freya Aitchinson, Oil & Gas Campaigner at Friends of the Earth Scotland. “On top of this, the UK Government is incentivising Equinor to drill for more oil and gas in the Rosebank field by giving them a £500 million tax break. Climate science is clear that to limit further dangerous climate breakdown, there must be no new investment in oil and gas extraction. Any oil produced from Rosebank will belong to Equinor who can sell it on the international market to the highest bidder. 80% of the oil extracted in the North Sea is exported and independent research has shown that it will not bring down energy bills.”

Equinor’s profit announcement sparked protests in the UK. On February 8, 2023, in Aberdeen, Scotland, activists from Friends of the Earth Scotland, the Stop Rosebank campaign, and Extinction Rebellion Aberdeen gathered outside the company’s local offices to ask Equinor to stop their plans to develop the Rosebank oil field. On the same day, campaigners from Parents for Future, Mothers Rise Up, and HERO UK Climate Justice Circle staged a demonstration outside Equinor’s headquarters in London, asking for the oil giant to withdraw its application to develop the Rosebank oil field.

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